Hartley can wreck Gretna dream, warns Alexander

GRETNA manager Rowan Alexander pinpointed Paul Hartley as Hearts’ danger man in today’s Tennent’s Scottish Cup final – but he will not be altering his team’s tactics to combat the Jambos midfielder.

The 29-year-old Scotland player has been outstanding this season, the highlight of his 18-goal campaign so far being a hat-trick in a 4-0 semi-final win over rivals Hibernian.

Alexander revealed his admiration for the midfielder but will not be asking his side to modify the style which has captured the Bell’s Second Division title this season and a place in next season’s UEFA Cup.

He said: “Paul Hartley is the person who really sets the trend in terms of how his team plays and performs.

“It pleases me to see his work rate, enthusiasm and energy – because that’s something that’s been sadly lacking in the Scottish game.

“When he triggers things off you can see the tempo of his team pick up – and if we can’t match that then we could be really sore losers.

“But we are a positive club and we rarely linger on the negatives or fear. Fortune favours the brave, so we won’t change our style one bit.”

Perhaps the only comparison that can be made between the Edinburgh side and Gretna is that both clubs’ recent successes have been built on the largesse of wealthy benefactors.

The Gorgie club’s majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov has been accused of interfering with team matters at Tynecastle.

By contrast, the perception of Gretna’s owner Brooks Mileson is that he is more of a hands-off boss. Alexander has revealed, however, that the demarcation lines are not always so clear. He said: “Brooks knows the boundaries now – but he found it difficult at the start because he didn’t realise that football wasn’t like a normal business.

“He was getting phone calls from agents who were offering players – and he was coming to me and saying ‘I think we need to get him’ or ‘He would do a good job here’.

“But I said ‘Wait a minute, this is the team I want to build; this is the system that I want to play – and these players aren’t going to be good for us’.”

“When the results followed, he obviously realised that he was better off just being a business man and letting the manager take care of the football.”

Meanwhile, Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon believes Alexander must have been close to becoming manager of the year this season – but has vowed to end the Raydale Park fairytale today.

The 23-year-old said: “It has been an unbelievable season for Gretna and you can’t take anything away from them. Their manager must have been very close to manager of the year and what he has achieved there – in such a short space of time – has been fantastic. It’s nice they have reached the UEFA Cup but that’s really where we want their success to end this year.”

Gordon is confident there will be no upset on the cards if his team-mates maintain the professional attitude which helped clinch a place in the Champions League qualifiers.

He said: “Of course, we feel confident and we are going the game as favourites and quite rightly so.

“We’ve had a good season and we want to finish it off in the right way.

“We have to be professional and apply ourselves in the same as we have all season. I’m sure, if we do that, then we will get a good result.”

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